Students in a class at San Jose State University.

College acceptance letters have gone out and many families are now facing some tough choices. As we approach the deadline for graduating high school seniors to choose their next step, Forum looks at the best strategies for choosing the right school — and common mistakes to avoid.

How to Choose the Right College 18 April,2017Amanda Stupi

Jeff Selingo, contributing writer, The Washington Post; author, "There is Life After College" and "College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students"
Ethan Ris, founder, Ethan Ris and Associates College Admissions Counseling
Esmeralda Ortiz, director, high school success programs, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Penninsula

  • Brian

    To what extent has the housing crisis impacted the college choices of students?
    I visited a slumlord-owned rental in the Sunset that despite the building being no larger than any other house in the Sunset, they had maybe 40 people living in it, because the rooms were quite small and they packed four Asian kids per room using two bunk beds.
    But the place was clean, that’s a plus.

  • FT

    I will be a junior transfer student this fall from the Peralta Community College district. I am thrilled to have been accepted to Mills College. (The deadline to respond to UCs is June 1st. I have yet to hear back from any of them–UC Berkeley says “decisions will be available on April 28th”–and the deadline to respond to all other schools, including state and private colleges, is May 1st.) Mills is expensive, which would have implied student debt had I gone to college straight from high school. However, since I have been an independent for several years, I am receiving aid based on my income, not my parents’. Through that and the generosity of Mills gift aid, if I attend Mills I will graduate with zero student debt. Community college in California is $46/unit, which amounts to only a few thousand dollars a year, and state aid covers 100% of tuition cost for me. Coupled with most of my teachers holding the highest degree in their field, I recommend CC to anyone nervous about paying for college.

  • Robert Thomas

    In the last ten years or so, five of my young relatives, from California families of moderate income, have graduated from university with bachelors’ degrees and NO STUDENT DEBT. The following becomes clear;

    Heed this.

    o Do not read the _US News and World Report_ college rankings.
    Those who exhort you to pay attention to these and similar rankings are Reeling In The Rubes.

    o Do not attend an out-of-state or private university.
    Those who exhort you to attend an out-of-state or private university in order to have a superior experience are Reeling In The Rubes.

    o Do not plan on attending graduate school.(*)
    Those who exhort you to attend graduate school in order to improve your prospects are Reeling In The Rubes.


    o Do attend a local State college or university;
    o Do attend community college and then transfer to a four-year college if that is the only way you can get a four-year degree without debt;
    o Do pay attention to your studies;
    o Do find at least one instructor truly interested in the education of students and heed his or her advice;
    o Do graduate with a degree;
    o (*)Do wait until THIS point even to consider graduate school;
    o Do get employed;
    o Do NOT incur student debt;
    o Do enjoy your life without this wretched, unnecessary burden invented out of nothing for you to bare by sociopathic marketeers, stupid journalists and bloviating public poondit-o-crats.

    • William – SF

      Agreed. Also, if you need help with studies, find it. If it’s helpful, study with those interested in learning and testing one another. Be honest about what you don’t know – work on those items. Learning is about understanding what you don’t yet know – there’s failure along the way, and that’s okay. You’ll learn more if you accept the fact that you’ll make mistakes, and those are positive opportunities not to be avoided. Hopefully you’ll find learning fun … because you’ll be doing it for a long long time. Enjoy.

      • Robert Thomas

        I agree very much. Seek amenable study groups and also faculty and administrative aid. They’re happy to oblige.

  • Robert Thomas

    “… ten hours a week in the classroom …”


    Forty years ago, during most terms, it was unusual for me to have had fewer than fifteen hours of lecture + lab, each week – not including seminar or TA Q&A. I didn’t think I was out of the ordinary.


    Many years ago after graduating with a bachelor degree in physics with distinction first class honer I was granted a PHD program scholarship in nuclear physics, I was given choice of universities in the U S, that was real easy since through my undergraduate studies I was aware that U C Berkeley great standing as the beacon and best uni8versity in the field of nuclear physics, I joined that great campus and spend 13 years as grad student and teacher, two of my professors Owen Chamberlain and Enrico Fermi were Noble prize winners, had great education and was the best time in my life.

  • geraldfnord

    Play to your weaknesses:I knew I could learn much of the humanities on my own, but probably nor quantum field theory or higher mathematics, so I went to a very unbalanced school that would force mw to learn the latter uf I were to graduate—that it was very cheap and dedicated to allowing anyone who could get in to afford attending didn’t hurt, either.

    • Robert Thomas

      This is inescapably true. However, I cherish the terms where I was able to pack in literature, history and philosophy (and two terms of undergraduate Introduction to the German language – the hardest courses I ever took). I was also able to take a couple of humanities courses at my community college that were excellent and very valuable to me, after I went to work.

  • Robert Thomas

    I know few good engineers who didn’t know that they wanted to work in the field before they started high school, much less before their matriculation at university.

  • TomHouse

    I didn’t start college until I was 25 and when I did, it was at a community college. I simply wasn’t ready before then. After barely graduating HS, I sailed through JC, was accepted to all the universities I applied to for transfer, selected Cal Poly SLO and majored in history, of all things. Went to grad school, ended up turning down PhD program acceptances in history to join “real world.” I have a dream job, so does my wife who earns well over six figures — she was also a history major.

    What’s my point? Don’t worry about college so much. I started as low as you can get in education and went about as high as you can get. A liberal arts major still granted access to the working world for me and my wife.

    It’s cliche for a reason, but college is a time to explore, to freak out, to travel, to learn how to be a person. You’ll learn what you need to if you have an open mind, and you’ll learn valuable writing and thinking skills.

    • Sharath Kanukuntla

      What is your opinion about Cal Poly SLO for humanities Major

      • TomHouse

        i loved it, but there are places that would probably be more comfortable for a humanities major. the profs at Poly are as good as it gets, and b/c there are few humanities students, they’re very connected with students. it’s hard to get into Poly, so your classmates will be very smart, which helps too.

        • Sharath Kanukuntla

          thanks a lot Tom.

          • TomHouse

            SLO is also an incredible place for a college student to live. Very beautiful, very safe, though not very diverse.

  • jurgispilis

    “Less resident students are getting into UC because more international and out-of-state students are accepted … “?

    You got to be kidding?

    • William – SF

      I know, it should be “fewer.”

  • Sharath Kanukuntla

    My daughter is choosing to go to medicine with sociology major. She is contemplating between Cal Poly SLO and OXY. Can someone comment which one is better considering the cost difference

  • Kevin Skipper

    Unless you’re studying theology or diabetes research, avoid HBCU’s if you ever want a decent job outside of New Dixie Land. That’ goes triple for jobs in California, aka New Teutonica. Goes quadruple for SF, Berkeley, and Silicon Valley aka New Peenemunde.

    Look down south and the story is different. Seems that regional accents and a penchant for mush-mouthed shucking and jiving are still highly sought after. Hollywood, aka, New Holly-Woo maintains a bottomless appetite for stooping coons who they can film from behind as they stoop to white actors who invariably deliver their lines with their backs to, or while pointing a condescending finger towards their token and still-vital slave class.

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